The Old Shelter

Dieselpunk Roaring Twenties. Sarah Zama's Author Blog

Archive for the tag “Thursday Quotables”

Thursday Quotables – Ledfether

Instead of pulling the door shut, too, the kid, that Doby Saxon whose mum had married that Yellowtail who didn’t even have an Indian name anymore, he just stood there like he was waiting for permission to come in, waiting for me or Junior to say to him it was ok if he had the snow crusted all over him still, that he could stomp it off in here if he wanted, that we’d mop it up later.

But then I looked to what he was looking at.

It was the back door; all the way through the dining room.

Because the front door was open, the back door was rattling, like somebody was trying to get in, or had just left. I’m not even sure the kid  knew we could see him.

quotation-marks4Stephen Graham Jones writes with a very personal style. And I liked it a lot. I also liked a lot his storyteller’s trick in this story (and I won’t reveal it), I thought it was very clever, and created a very involving, dreamy atmosphere for this very peculiar story.

But in the end, this trick was a lot less meaningful to the story than I thought it would be, and in fact turned out to be quite inconsequential, which was a let down for me. The story turned out to be confusing too, which also is a pity. There are a lot of very clever intuitions in this story, but I’m not at all sure they were exploited to their full strength.

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Thursday Quotables – The Way of the White Folks

“Sit down and tell us what you’s heard, Sister Jenkins.”
“About Douglass?”
“Course ‘baut Douglass. What else is anybody talking ‘bout nowadays?”
“Well, my daughter told me Douglass sister’s say they was in love.”
“Him and that white woman?”
“Yes. Douglass’ sister say it’s been going on ‘fore de woman got married.”
“Uh-huh! Then why didn’t he stop foolin’ with her after she got married? Bad enough, colored boy foolin’ ‘round a unmarried white woman, let alone a married one.”
“Douglass’s sister say they was in love.”
“Well, why did she marry the white man, then?”
“She’s white, ain’t she? And who wouldn’t marry a rich white man? Got his own farm, money and all, even if he were a widower with grown children gone to town. He give her everything she wanted, didn’t he?”
“Everything but the right thing.”

quotation-marks4Took me about two lines to fall in love with Langston Hughes. The power of his prose is something unique. The way he reproduces spoken language in a way that expresses characters and setting is something  I’ve rarely encountered and something I definitely envy as a writer. He can express a lot with such few words.

The excerpt above is a morsel from the short story Mother and Child from the The Ways of the White Folks collection, but you can easily get the entire story and even part of the setting from it. It’s really like I’m sitting with these women, talking about someone I know. This is what I really love about Hughes’ art.

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Thursday Quotables – The Trumpet

The lights dimmed and a sole spotlight shone over him. The applause ceased and all Terry could see from beyond the stage was darkness. Was he alone? He heard light footsteps tap the wooden stage floor, growing steadily closer.

A figure emerged from the darkness. As it grew closer, Terry observed it possessed the stature of a man, wore a fine black suit, a black bowler hat, and was dreadfully skinny coupled with an abnormal height. The man laughed and clapped, covered in shadow.

“What a wonderful performance. You truly are a talented one, Terrence Jones!” The man praised Terry with a voice both gentle and frightening.

Terry tried to speak, but the words wouldn’t come. He stood there, grasping the silver trumpet firmly, watching the enigmatic man in the darkness.

“Let me start by introducing myself, my frightened little lamb. I go by many names, but you can call me Andromaleus. It is my great pleasure to welcome you to the Theatre of Shadows.”

quotation-marks4The Trumpet is a mild dieselpunk story set in the Twenties, with a very cool core idea, though not as strong as an execution, in my opinion. The fantasy parts, which all condensed in the Theatre of Shadows sequences, are by far the most effective for me. They are haunting, have a great mood and they are the ones that advance the story the most. This is a brief excerpt from the first of them.

You can read my review of the story here.

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Did you like this quote? Here’s a few things you might want to do.

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Thursday Quotables – The Dain Curse

I asked him if he knew Eric Collinson. He said he did; there was nothing to know about him except that he was engaged to Gabrielle Leggett, that his father was the lumber Collinson, and that Eric was Princeton, stocks and bonds, and hard-ball, a nice boy.

‘Maybe,’ I said, ‘but he liked to me.’

‘Isn’t that like a sleuth?’ Fitzstephan shook his head, grinning. ‘You must have had the wrong fellow – somebody impersonating him. The Chevalier Bayard doesn’t lie, and, besides, lying requires imagination. You’ve – oh, wait! Was a woman involved in your question?’

I nodded.

‘You’re correct, then,’ Fitzstephan assured. ‘I apologize. The Chevalier Bayard always lies when a woman is involved, even if it’s unnecessary  and put her through a lot of trouble. It’s one of the convention of Bayardism, something  to do with guarding her honor or the like. Who was the woman?’

‘Gabrielle Leggett,’ I said, and told him all I knew about the Leggetts, the diamond and the dead man in the Golden Gate Avenue. Disappointment deepened in his face while I talked.

‘That’s trivial, dull,’ he complained when I was finished. ‘I’ve been thinking f Leggett in terms of Dumas, and you bring me a piece of gimcrackery our of O. Henry. You’ve let me down, you and your shabby diamond.’

quotation-marks4Because I’m writing the Twenties and because I like mysteries, I of course wind up reading Dashiell Hammett. I can’t say that something clicked with him, which is kind of a shame, but there are things I do like about him. Definitely his style, which is essential in the extreme, but very effective, really natural-sounding and loaded with era lingo, which is certainly a bonus for me.

I also like his ability to create peculiar characters. Fitzstephan is sure one of these. A novelist with a sharp mind and an egocentric personality, a sharp wit… and a few secrets. He was the most fascinating in the book. I enjoyed all the episodes where he appears.

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Did you like this quote? Here’s a few things you might want to do.

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Thursday Quotables – The Troubleshooter

Whoever said that misery loves company was right on the money – and probably the loneliest soul on the planet. Because the problem is that company doesn’t love you back. Being miserable is actually  a rather dismal and insular experience, something I can relate to from prolonged exposure.

Naturally the depression was complimented by the sound of rain pounding the pavement outside my grime-streaked windows. I didn’t complain, though. Most folks hate the rain ‘cause they’re thinking about their hair  or their darb rags that are about to get socked. Then you got those daisies that get all depressed and sit around crying and writing poetry and all.

But me?

Suited my mood just fine. The office air conditioner blew its circuits a while back, so I kinda like it when the rain cools things down. You know; washed some of the grime off the streets and into the gutters where it belongs. It never lasted. The cleanness, I mean. That’s about the only thing you could bank on in New Heaven.

quotation-marks4This is the opening from The Troubleshooter – New Heaven Blues by Bard Constantine. This is a fun story, where fun means a lot a of things happen all of the time and you rushed thought the story breathless, wanting to know what will happen next. I’m enjoying it, and what I’m enjoying the most is the language. I like this narration, so close to spoken language. It makes it sound as if the author were telling us the story rather than let us read it.

This is a very grim dieselpunk story, with a lot of shady and downright dark characters, in a place where life is cheap and smartness is your best bet at survival. A fun place to read.

Thursday Quotables – Ellis Island

Beyond Lady Liberty was the city itself. It was a dull day and the tall buildings emerged from the grey horizon like ghosts. We stood, a small and shivering crowd of newcomers, silenced by the skyline. It was as if it had emerged from under the sea itself, grown out of the was nothingness of the ocean we had come to know over the past week.

quotation-marks4I had high expectation for this novel, because it seemed to have all the elements I like in a story: the journey, the displacement, the seeking of one’s true identity. I found nothing of this.

The author seems far more concerned with the outside world, with the materialism of the situation, that with the more intimate movement of the soul. I had a very hard time connecting with a character that was too much focused on getting wealth than finding happiness.

Still, the prose was quite pleasant to read, if a bit shallow for my likings, and sometimes created nice imagery.

You can read my review of the book here

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Thursday Quotables – A Fistful of Nothing

“There’s gonna be heat and it’s gonna be hot and I’m gonna catch it. It’ll blaze right through my blistered paws, most like. Prolly burn me hollow – but I’ll catch it all the same, if that’s what it takes. And it will. And won’t none of it be pretty.” He pressed his forehead to the cool brick. “Like you. You’re so goddamned pretty.”
Silence crept back onto the line then, dead air crackling between them the length on the alley, the length of the metro line, the length of The Holes. He saw the silhouette touch a hand to its soft lips.
“Jim…”
“I’m sorry.”
“No, Jim. No. It’s just…”
“Save it. I’m sorry, I said. I get it. You did swell work, patching me up, but I guess I oughtn’t be walking around yet. My… my head’s gone soft or something.” Jim finished his cigarette, balancing the smoking butt on the lip of that bastardized tub. “Maybe it always was.”
He straightened himself, then straightened his coat, watching that shadow and its trembling fingers. He brought the handset to his mouth. “You’re one in a million, Betty baby.”

quotation-marks4In a story that visibly aims at mimicking film noir tropes and language, this dialogue on the phone between the two main characters is maybe the more noir of all. Jim is in a ally just outside Betty’s restaurant and can see her through the window. The situation itself is very noir, in my opinion, with that expressive use of shadows.

The episode is also one of the more revealing of the character’s personality.

You can read my review of A Fistful of Nothing here

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Did you like this quote? Here’s a few things you might want to do.

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Thursday Quotables – The Hot Dry Spell

The opening moan of a cello signaled the rest of the orchestra to chime in. Ariane let the atmosphere surround her. A smoky haze draped over the crowd that was enthralled by her song of unreturned love and the dancers that slinked around her in synchronized dance.

Don’t tell me not to love you

Then she felt and saw him through the mist of her mind as the song continued. The smoky atmosphere of the club slipped away to reveal the cool Chicago evening. Ariane continued to sing as the scene played out like a movie.

My heart won’t lie
To my head that
Can’t say goodbye

In the vision, Gerry straightened out his suit and led his men toward the river that connected the Fae realm to the mortal one.

quotation-marks4This is a story of Fae and werewolves in Prohibition Era Chicago, which is a very intriguing idea, in my opinion. As Rea Lori says in her guest post, she’s going to write more about this world and I can’t wait to read it.

You can read my review of this short here.

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 Did you like this quote? Here’s a few things you might want to do.

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Thusday Quotables – Dulce et Decorum Est

The hideous miasma rolled along the shattered landscape. The Germans tried to outrun it, but they were too slow. The mist enveloped them. They floundered, limbs waving, their twisted, mannered figures reeling through it, the sound of their screaming voices growing more and more distant, until they disappeared.

“You told me that’s a German secret weapon,” Kelsey said.

“Yes.”

“So why are they killing their own troops?”

Blake stared ahead, thinking. He’d been wondering the same thing himself. “The wind must have changed.”

Kelsey gave a quizzical look.

“Now look. Over there,” Blake said.

In No-Man’s Land, materializing at the heart of the swirling yellow cloud, was the figure that haunted Blake and his men. Shining metal, barely recognizable as human. It seemed to be composed of metal surfaces, moving in small jerks, grouping together, then splitting apart and reforming, diminishing and enlarging, forming columns and lines. The armored shape was surrounded by a brilliant glow that illuminated the churned-up mud.

“Good God,” Kelsey whispered.

quotation-marks4This is my favourite passage from Ducle at Decorum Est, the most haunting episode of the entire story. We see the unimaginable, and still we don’t see it, and the ambiguity is what evokes the stronger feeling for me.

In other passages, you get a very vivid impression of what the life in the trenches must have been, a very realistic portrayal of it. Here, you get a transfigured image of it, but the impression is just as strong. This is the power of speculative fiction, for me. Giving reality a new form, so that it speaks more freely about itself.

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Thusday Quotables – Chicago Stories

They crossed the sidewalk to stand in front of the new Ford. The space to its left was vacant, and a Chrysler, driven by a tall, burning blonde in purple, was driven into it. She sat by the wheel, powdering her nose. Replacing her powder puff in her bag, she lit a cigarette with a nickel cigarette-lighter.

“She’s got what I call meat,” Jack said, surreptitiously back-glancing at her.

“And class,” Don said.

“It’s just meat!”

“She makes most of them out here today look like pikers,” Don said.

A dark-haired girl in black bathing suit strode boyishly by them. She was long, supple, and tanned; her tights, and she was flat-chested.

“Oh! Oh!” exclaimed Don-

“She’s jail bait,” Jack said.

“Know her?”

“I know who she is. She goes to St. Paul’s. All the boys around the beach here have a feel-day with her, and she doesn’t mind it.”

“Piggly-wiggly girl, huh?” Don said, his mind inflamed.

“Well, now, I think that Monk Sweeney made the grade with her over on the Jackson Park golf course one night. I wouldn’t say for sure, but that’s my suspicion.”

I can’t say anythquotation-marks4ing clicked between me and James Farrell. I wanted to read his work because he wrote Irish- American stories in Chicago between the early 1930s and the late 1940s, so it’s relevant to my story, but honestly I can’t relate to his aesthetics. He thought stories should just mimic life, and so most of them don’t really tell a story at all, but just depict a vignette.
Not really my stuff.

But this particular story, Looking ‘Em Over, from his collection Chicago Stories, was different… at least for me. It is a vignette, so it doesn’t tell a story anyway, but it depicts the life of youths in that period. It was interesting seeing the dynamics from the eyes of someone who lived it rather that someone trying to recreate it. Youths’ life what going through a huge change in the Twenties, especially life of young women. Sometimes I think their life was like ours a lot more than we think.

So this was fun. Hope you enjoy it too.

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Did you like this quote? Here’s a few things you might want to do.

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